MLB exhibition bets OK says Nevada

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Fear not, diehard baseball bettors. Your exhibition wagers are more than welcome in the state of Nevada.

Per a story on ESPN.com, the Nevada Gaming Control Board declined Major League Baseball’s request to prohibit betting on spring training games after the league asked the commission to remove exhibition contests from the betting board at the state’s regulated sportsbooks.

Major League Baseball issued a statement to media, saying: “Spring Training games are exhibition contests in which the primary focus of clubs and players is to prepare for the coming season rather than to win games or perform at maximum effort on every single play.

“These games are not conducive to betting and carry heightened integrity risks, and states should not permit bookmakers to offer bets on them. Limited and historically in-person betting on Spring Training in one state did not pose nearly the same integrity risks that widespread betting on Spring Training in multiple states will pose.”

With spring training delivering its first pitch this past week and lines having been posted in sportsbooks in Nevada and New Jersey, the baseball betting season has arrived.

Though betting on baseball’s exhibition games has always been minimal, and whether or not baseball’s best is giving their maximum effort on defense, or running out grounders, or even playing more than two or three innings — there will be action.

In a statement provided to ESPN.com, the Nevada Gaming Control Board wrote: “Based on our history and experience in regulating sports wagering, we are not inclined to prohibit our licensed sportsbooks from taking wagers on MLB Spring Training games.

“We have a common goal to combat sports bribery and maintain the integrity of your sport and are available to discuss ways we can work together in this effort.”

While Nevada continued to accept bets, Pennsylvania opted not to.

“We acknowledge the concerns they raised on spring training games and we are examinging these concerns,” Doug Harback, a Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board spokesman, told the Associated Press Tuesday afternoon..

Westgate VP of Race and Sports Operations Jay Kornegay admitted taking action on exhibition games is not necessarily something he looks forward to because it can be just as challenging to a sportsbook, as it is to the common bettor.

“It’s pretty tough to handicap,” he said. “Two-thirds of the way through spring training, the regulars will play more. It’s all about the information that’s out there. Anybody can surf the internet and social media for the latest updated news of who’s actually playing and who’s sitting.

“There are a lot of unknowns and no certainty surrounding exhibition baseball. The teams have gotten better in giving us information: who’s starting, who’s sitting and who’s the starting pitcher. That doesn’t hold true for every single game in giving out that information to the public.”

Kornegay said this is the first year the Westgate will offer run line wagers and totals for exhibition baseball, something he is hoping will generate new interest and increased action leading up to Opening Day. 

He said betting limits will remain low, taking up to $1,000 on sides and run line plays, and just $500 on totals.Just about every book in Nevada limits the amount of action on exhibition baseball to reduce the risk.

Despite all the uncertainty, with most starters playing just three innings over the first couple of weeks, Kornegay also knows there are professional bettors lurking.

“The sharps pick their spots, and we move (the number) aggressively according to the plays,” Korne­gay said. “Sometimes I feel like they’re at the ballpark looking at who’s stretching.”

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About the Author

W.G. Ramirez

W.G. Ramirez is a 32-year veteran covering sports in Southern Nevada, and resident of 46 years. He is a freelance reporter in Las Vegas and the Southern Nevada correspondent for The Associated Press.

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